Yes, You Can Make Money Writing Fiction
Patricia Fry

Many people doubt that anyone can make money as a writer. This belief is especially wide-spread among the fiction-writing community. The truth is that there is money to be made as a writer no matter the genre you choose. If you dream of making money writing fiction, follow the steps below to your very own pot of gold:

1: Change your mindset. The most common mistake that writers of any persuasion or genre make is becoming so attached to what he or she wants to write that they canít or wonít bend. It is rare that you can make even a little spending money writing strictly what you want to write. If you hope to earn a living through your writing, you must begin to look at writing as a business rather than a creative outlet. It is time to step outside that comfy inspired writing zone and begin to write what others actually want to publish.

As an example, perhaps you love writing science fiction, but you notice that the higher paying markets are specialty magazines seeking more contemporary stories. Be willing to write a slice of life story for The Country Collection or U.S. Catholic and earn a cool $150 or $300. Consider submitting a fiction piece featuring retirement for St. Anthony Messenger and collect $450. Wouldnít you try to place a humorous religious piece in Reform Judaism if you knew you could earn $750?

Of course, you can still write science fiction. Earn a few bucks on the side and build your list of credits by submitting some of your stories to magazines such as Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Dark Wisdom, and Amazing Journeys Magazine, for example.

2: Make sure you actually have a knack for writing fiction. Maybe writer is your name and fiction is your game, but do you have any talent? Do your stories possess all of the elements of good fiction? Have you actually tested your writing skill by entering your work in contests or seeking publication at sites or in magazines that are at least a little bit selective about what they publish? Maybe you can ask a professional editor of fiction or an acclaimed writer of fiction to review your workójust to see if it is worthy of publication. If not, then maybe some classes and a few writerís conferences are in order.

In the meantime, test your science fiction/horror writing through Web sites and online e-zines such as those listed at Everywritersresource.horror. Locate general fiction writing sites and e-zines by doing a Google search. Explore literary print magazines. While they generally donít pay much, most of them do publish fiction. There are over 100 literary magazines listed in Writerís Market.

3: Locate viable markets. In other words, start thinking like a businessman or woman. Do you subscribe to magazines that publish fiction? Scrutinize magazines that you find in the doctorís office as well as those on newsstands and online. Locate appropriate magazines using Writerís Market or the or databases. Here are three directories that list magazines that use fiction.

When you locate a prospective magazine, visit their Web site in search of their Submission Guidelines or Guidelines for Writers. Find Submission Guidelines:

  • By clicking on Submission Guidelines. or
  • By clicking on Contact Us or
  • By clicking on About Us. or
  • By writing to the editor and requesting a copy.

Submission Guidelines will tell you:

*Whether or not the editors accept submissions. Some magazines use staff writers only. Others accept submissions only during certain months.

*What type of material theyíre seeking. Do they want short romance or adventure stories of 1,000 to 3,000 words or 10,000 word novellas?

*The pay scale. Do they pay a flat fee or by the word --.01 cents/word or $1,000 per story?

*What to include in your submission. Do they want to see a synopsis first or the complete manuscript? Do they want your credentials as a writer included in a cover letter?

*Contact information. Always address your package to the appropriate editor. This information may be outdated at their Web site, so always double check by reviewing their magazine masthead. Itís also okay to call and ask to whom your package should be directed.

4: Go where the money is. Donít bypass magazines because you donít think they use fiction or they donít publish the type of fiction you want to write. You might be surprised at the number and variety of magazines that seek good fiction.

For example, Escapees Magazine publishes short stories with an RV travel theme. How difficult would it be to change one of your adventurous car trip stories into a story featuring an RV excursion? Bowhunter, Deer and Deer Hunting, Fly Fishing in Salt Water, USA Hockey Magazine and Indy Menís Magazine also use fiction. Even a few trade publications use fiction pieces: Stitches pays as much as $375. Traders Magazine and Church Educator both use fiction as do several writersí magazines. Of course literary magazines publish fiction. While they donít typically pay much, you could conceivably make enough take a Hawaiian vacation at the end of the year if you sold enough stories to enough magazines.

Get writing gigs with higher paying literary magazines such as, The Paris Review, Tin House and Zoetrope: All Story and you can fly to Paris for the weekend.

Consider writing things other than fiction while youíre establishing yourself. Write nonfiction articles for magazines on some of your favorite topics: gardening, raising puggles, child-rearing, family finances or fitness, for example. This is also a good way to become acquainted with the magazine editors youíd like to work with. Add to your salary by writing ad copy and, if youíre qualified, edit fiction works for clients, teach writing or develop a workshop to present locally.

5: Understand and respect the business of writing. When you find that magazine that pays the big bucks, get a copy of their guidelines for writers and follow them. If they want a 1,000-word inspirational fiction, do not send them a 3,000-word dark mystery. Laugh if you must, but this is one of the major mistakes that would be writers make ó not adhering to submission guidelines.

Always submit the absolute best manuscript possible. Donít expect the editor to fix your mistakes. The competition is not impossible to overcome, but it is fierce. You must present the most polished submission possible in the most professional way.

Do you need an agent? Some of the highest paying magazine markets are now requesting that writers submit fiction through an agent: Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal, for example. While most literary agents will not represent writers of magazine articles and stories, a few will. Hereís a site that lists 39 agents for fiction and short stories:

How much can you make? If you can discipline yourself to write and if youíre a fairly prolific writer, you have the potential to make some real money. But youíll most likely have to change your ways. Instead of writing something and then tossing it aside to go on to the next story or instead of endlessly changing your story, you must actually complete it and submit it.

If you can write three short stories per week, for example, and place three new stories and three reprints with paying publications per month, thereís the potential for you to make $1,500 to $2,000 (or more) per month. Thatís $18,000 to $24,000/year. Submit several of the older stories in your portfolio each month and perhaps youíll double this annual income. Here are some additional markets to help you get started:

Orion will pay as much as $800 for a good fiction piece with an environmental slant.

Now and Then magazine pays $100 for fiction related to Appalachia.

Pockets will pay as much as $140 for a fiction with a moral lesson for children.

Friction Zone pays up to $400 for fiction pieces featuring motorcyclists.

Now, I donít want to hear anymore excuses. No more complaining that you canít make any money with fiction. Use some of the 50 resources, ideas and markets listed here and you, too, can get paid for doing what you truly enjoy.

This article is the sole property of the author. It is produced here with the author's permission.  The unauthorized use or reprinting of an article is illegal, and will be prosecuted at the discretion of the author.


Fiction Fix Home Page

Current Issue

Contact us.

Article Archive

Writers' Guidelines


Privacy Statement



About the Writer:

Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer and the author of 25 books including The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book and A Writerís Guide to Magazine Articles. (Available from Visit her writing/publishing blog often.